Liz Kuhlkin is only 24 years old, but her list of prestigious bowling achievements has grown so long and impressive that she has a tough time choosing a group of favorites.
The Schalmont High School graduate, who excelled in the collegiate ranks at Nebraska and owns the national record for highest three-game series by a woman (890), picked up another major accolade when she was named to Team USA following last week’s trials in Las Vegas.
Team USA members represent this country in international events all over the world. Kuhlkin previously was a member of Junior Team USA and captured one gold medal and two bronze medals at the 2014 World Bowling Youth Championships. She desperately wanted to make the team again as an adult, but it wouldn’t be easy.
It was an emotional roller-coaster ride for Kuhlkin, who was hoping to earn an automatic berth. Although she led the qualifying after the first day and remained among the leaders for most of the trials, she slipped a bit on the final day and dropped off the leaderboard. Fortunately, Team USA committee members liked what they saw and selected her to the team anyway as an at-large pick.
“This is absolutely a fantastic honor for me,” Kuhlkin said. “I had the opportunity to make the Junior USA Team in 2014, and I knew I wanted to represent my country once again. I enjoyed that experience so much. But the trials the past two years were always around Christmas and my schedule made it tough for me to attend. This year, I vowed to give it a try, and signed up for the trials,” she explained. “I did very well early. I wanted to finish in the top four, which would give me an automatic berth on the team, and it looked good for me until the last day.”
Kuhlkin didn’t bowl that badly on the final day (-26 for her block), but many other bowlers surged ahead of her. “My fate was in the committee’s hands after that,” she said. “I think what helped me was that in my final game, even though I had been struggling, I bowled a good game, right in front of the committee. I think they saw the fact that I didn’t give up. I remained consistent, and I kept on grinding. I’m very grateful that they decided to choose me for the team.”
What made Kuhlkin’s performance even more impressive is that she recently changed ball companies, a major move for a pro bowler. “Back in December, I left Hammer and joined the Brunswick staff,” she explained. “Chuck Gardner of Brunswick told me that since I switched companies so close to the trials, he didn’t expect me to use strictly Brunswick equipment at the trials. They would have been happy if I used at least half of the Brunswick stuff.
But I’m very loyal. If Brunswick trusted me to be on their staff, I decided to use only Brunswick bowling balls at the trials, and as it turned out, the equipment worked great for me. Brunswick really fits my game.”
Kuhlkin won’t find out if she will make the Team USA travel squad until the Team USA Camp in April. She will undergo physical testing for all aspects of her game there with the other team members, and the committee will decide which handful of bowlers will travel to international competition.
“Whatever happens at the camp, I’m thrilled to make the team,” she said. “This is definitely among the top three individual achievements of my career.”
Kuhlkin said her other most memorable achievements were winning her first pro title at the 2015 PWBA Topeka Open in Topeka, Kan., and also shooting that fantastic 890 triple at Towne Bowling Academy, which is not only the national women’s record but also the Schenectady Bowling Association record for both men and women.
Kuhlkin also won the 2016 PWBA Maple City Dodge East Open regional title in Hornell. While at Nebraska, she was a three-time collegiate All-American, a two-time NCAA national team champion, the 2015 NCAA Division I Player of the Year and the 2015 Nebraska Female Athlete of the Year.
Like I said, Liz is only 24! I’ve been following her career since she was a youngster, and I’m never surprised by her talent and drive.
STRIKES & SPARES
Schenectady USBC Hall of Famer Laura Simpkins, 89, shook off a poor start with a pair of 200 games for a solid 527 in the Menagerie league last week.
Bill Judge rolled a career-best 825 triple in the City League at Towne Bowing Academy Monday.
Lauren May Piotrowski of Schenectady enjoyed a fantastic week on the lanes. Competing for Towne Bowling Academy, she rolled a 288-811 triple in the Joey Schmidt Junior Pro-Scoring league. She also won her third Capital District Youth Scholarship Tour championship at Uncle Sam Lanes in Troy. That’s the most titles for a female in CDYST
The New Era Senior Tournament tour kicks off its 2018 schedule with an event Saturday at Olympic Lanes in Menands. Bowling starts at 11 a.m.
Towne Bowling Academy’s eighth annual Team Handicap Tournament continues with two squads Sunday, at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Entry fee is $160 per four-person team. Top prize is $4,000 for the winning team. There is also an optional singles event for $15. Call 518-355-3939 for reservations.
The field is filling up quickly for the annual Super Bowl Doubles, which will return at a new site and with a new format. Tom Donato and Tom Earl will run the new venture Feb. 4 at Kingpin’s Alley Family Fun Center. The format will be five games of qualifying, with one in five teams advancing to the single-game match-play finals. Entry fee is $160 per team. Top prize will be $2,000, based on 40 entries. One in five teams will cash. There were close to 50 teams entered as of Wednesday. Call Earl (518-763-2734) or Donato (518-788-0771) for reservations.
Sportsman’s Bowl will host the Ladies 500 Club Snow Ball Scotch Doubles Feb. 4 at 1 p.m. Entry deadline is Jan. 27. Entry forms are available at Sportsman’s Bowl, Towne Bowling Academy and Boulevard Bowl. Call Marie Moorhead (518-399-3063) or Marianne Hogle (518-393-8907) for more information.
The next Amateur League Bowlers Association of New York Handicap Singles Tournament will be Jan. 21 at 9:30 a.m. at Sportsman’s Bowl. Top prize will be $500, based on 60 entries. Only bowlers with averages less than 215 are eligible. Maximum handicap allowance will be 75 pins per game. Handicap will be 100 percent of 215. Entry fee is $45, or $30 if paid before Jan. 14. Call Jim Burton (518-209-4748) for more information.
The 24th Annual Women's Capital District 600 Club Tournament will be held on Saturday, Feb. 10 at 12:30 p.m. at Uncle Sam Lanes. Applications are available at Sportsman’s, Towne and Boulevard or by contacting Marianne Hogle on (518) 393-8907. Schenectady bowlers must be a member of the Electric City 600 Club or can contact Hogle to join.